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On the Job with Race Day Photographers

If you’ve been to an auto race or watched one on TV, you’ve surely seen the throng of lucky photographers documenting the action from enviable viewpoints. Have you ever wondered what it’s like to be one of those professionals behind the cameras? In this video, photographers Brian Czobat and Nigel Kinrade of Autostock Images show us what it’s like to photograph NASCAR races:

For over twenty years, Czobat and Kinrade have photographed auto races. With this experience, they’ve learned just what it takes to please their clients. They must not only capture the action taking place during the races, but also depict the atmosphere of racing and the personalities of the drivers.

Before each event, the photographers get together to discuss a game plan. They work out who will photograph which part of the day and make sure to rotate positions each week so no one gets bored. This keeps photographers fresh and interested. They also discuss their lens choices so that each person is working with a different lens. A fisheye lens might be used for a portrait of a driver signing autographs for his or her fans, or a 300mm lens might be utilized to get some candid shots. This diversity of lens choice ensures a wider variety of shots throughout the day.

Before the race, the photographers set out to photograph the personnel and VIPs on the pit road, behind-the-scenes happenings in the garage, and other images to set the scene. They then move on to action shots of the race and keep following along to the finish line, where they get posed shots of drivers and sponsors. The photographers’ goal is to first get the “bread and butter” traditional shots that clients and magazines are after.

Once the basic shots are saved to their memory cards, Czobat and Kinrade are free to get creative with experimental shots. This might mean looking for unique angles, creative silhouettes, or hunting down interesting reflections. Because the cars are moving at high speeds–sometimes upwards of 200 miles per hour–the photographers push their equipment to its limits to freeze the action into a still photograph. It’s a long day in a thrilling environment, but the photographers have to stay on their toes.

While adrenaline is flowing for the drivers, the photographers are not immune from the dangers of racing. Getting the perfect shot often means putting themselves at risk. Here’s one example of a close call for race day photographers:

After the tiring, dangerous day is over and fans clear from the stands, Czobat and Kinrade head inside to process their photos. Clients require a quick turnaround time, so the photographers must work efficiently to select and edit images for delivery by early Monday morning.

Photographing stock car auto races is not for the faint of heart. It requires long hours, hazardous working conditions, and a willingness to compete with other photographers for a front and center position. But the photographers of Autostock Images have the job down to an art. Their images make it look easy.

“Utopia is the ultimate shot. You never get it. You know. You never get it. You’re looking for it. That’s what drives you to keep shooting this stuff.”

[via PictureCorrect Photography Tips]

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